During the ‘80s, the film industry gave birth to a new wave of action heroes. Beefy, brawny guys like Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jean-Claude Van Damme dominated the box office — starring in one rock’em, sock’em summer action flick after another. As the industry continued to keep churning one vehicle out after another, the demand for new faces and ideas became prevalent. Some of those new ideas were questionable even for the ‘80s (e.g. movies about arm-wrestling and/or bouncers — to say nothing of Action Jackson), while others were about as run-of-the-mill as they could get.
But at least we got to see some new faces. One such example is Steven Seagal, a martial artist/musician/writer, who started his film career with 1988’s Above The Law. In it, Seagal starred as a good cop who declares a personal vendetta against the film’s bad guys and takes them down accordingly. And then, for his second film, Hard To Kill, Seagal played a good cop who hunts down some bad guys as part of a personal vendetta. Naturally, it seemed fitting that for his third film, 1990’s Marked For Death, Steven Seagal would play a (wait for it) good cop — with a personal vendetta against the story’s villains.
The film’s tagline even read: “He’s a good cop in a bad mood.”
Well, at least they weren’t trying to fool anyone into thinking this film would be too terribly different than the previous two!
In Marked For Death, Seagal plays DEA Agent John Hatcher, who, following the untimely demise of his partner (whilst on assignment), decides to retire and stay with his sister and her family in Hatcher’s hometown of Lincoln Heights, Illinois. Sadly, though, the ol’ neighborhood isn’t what it used to be. Sure, it’s nice and all — perhaps just a tad too nice for Illinois — but some ruthless Jamaican druglords have been muzzling in on the once-peaceful turf, declaring war on anyone who stands in their way.
But, of course, they haven’t met John Hatcher yet.
At best, Marked For Death is silly. But it’s most assuredly a good kind of silly: an enjoyably brainless popcorn film that fills just about any late night movie call nicely. The film has a number of fine, almost comic book-like moments going for it, including a pseudo-voodoo Jamaican villain with bad contacts named Screwface (Basil Wallace), a memorable fight scene in a jewelry store, and even some bare titties just to keep your interest up. Oh, it’s also very ‘90s-esque, so you can expect a lot of confused looks from the younger members of the audience who weren’t around to experience our “courageous” fashions of the time.
All in all, Marked For Death is semi-required viewing, just to understand the Steven Seagal Phenomenon if nothing else.
On Blu-ray, Fox Home Entertainment presents Marked For Death in a 1080p/AVC transfer that exhibits the film in its original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio, and sports a decent (if a bit soft) color palette and an overall strong contrast. The presentation is a marked improvement over what we’ve seen before (especially if you remember that fine full frame VHS presentation that first came out on home video), and Seagal aficionados will most likely want to invest in the upgrade.
On the audio front, Marked For Death dons a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack that, despite being a film with a large number of shots, booms, and cracks, is a bit of a letdown. Most of the audio information parks it up in the front seat section, with surround sounds merging through the rear speakers. English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks are also included here, as is a Spanish DD 2.0. Subtitles are provided in English SDH and Spanish.
While the A/V departments may not offer what some HD purists are searching for, they’re still an improvement over the Special Features section — which gives us absolutely nothing to look at. This lack of detail to even the most basic of bonus materials is an outrage to say the least — and I hope Steven Seagal (who really is a good cop, as anyone who has seen his television series Steven Seagal: Lawman, can attest to) will declare a personal vendetta against the maroon at Fox that decided to release this title as is.